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ABC Board Approves 2021 Advocacy Agenda
On March 20, the ABC Board of Directors approved and adopted the Association’s new advocacy agenda for the next two years. This agenda serves as a framework to guide ABC’s policy and advocacy efforts, including federal legislative and regulatory activities for 2021 and 2022.

The organization will continue to build strong, effective relationships with varied stakeholders throughout the healthcare community to help advance our shared interests around these policy priorities.
ABC Endorses Momnibus Act of 2021
The ABC has again endorsed the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, introduced on February 8 by Reps. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and Alma Adams (D-NC), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), and members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. The Black Maternal Health Momnibus of 2021 (H.R. 959 / S. 346) builds on existing legislation to comprehensively address every dimension of the maternal health crisis in America, including making investments in social determinants of health that influence maternal health outcomes, like housing, transportation, and nutrition.

“The ABC applauds Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, Congresswoman Alma Adams and Senator Cory Booker for using the full weight of elected office to improve maternal health and eliminate racial inequities through the introduction of The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021. In 2020, the ABC hosted the Black Maternal Heart Health Roundtable, a collaborative task force of diverse stakeholders and champions of maternal health equity to discuss the dissemination and implementation of innovative solutions presented in a paper led by Dr. Rachel Bond. Solving the Black maternal health crisis requires every corner of the stakeholder community coming together. The Black Maternal Health Caucus has played an indispensable role in this regard, and ABC is proud to serve as a collaborator.”

Michelle A. Albert, MD, MPH
President, Association of Black Cardiologists
Congress Poised to Continue Sequestration Moratorium
In March, both the U.S. House and Senate voted to continue the moratorium on Medicare sequestration through 2021. Without congressional action, a 2 percent across-the-board Medicare payment cut will resume April 1.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 suspended (May 1 through December 31, 2021) the 2 percent payment adjustment that is currently applied to all Medicare fee-for-service claims due to sequestration. In December Congress extended the moratorium through March 31, 2021.

ABC joined with other cardiovascular societies in urging Congress to take action. In separate House and Senate letters, the societies pointed to a healthcare system strained by the COVID-19 response.

According to a new report by the American Medical Association, there was a 19 percent drop in Medicare spending for cardiology during the first six months of 2020. But despite widespread use of telehealth, physician practices surveyed in July and August were still providing fewer total visits than pre-pandemic.

Because the House- and Senate-passed sequestration relief measures differ, final congressional action is not expected until mid-April.

In anticipation of final congressional action, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has instructed the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) to hold all claims with dates of service on or after April 1, 2021, for a short period without affecting providers’ cash flow. This will minimize the volume of claims the MACs must reprocess if Congress extends the suspension; the MACs will automatically reprocess any claims paid with the reduction applied if necessary.

Learn more about sequestration with this primer
New Administration Offers Hope for Restrictions on Flavored Tobacco Products
New pressure on Congress and the White House to reduce racial health disparities may be the tipping point to securing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) action that has been long-sought by the public health community to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes.

In February, the ABC endorsed a report that details the tobacco industry’s decades-long targeting of Black communities, especially kids, with marketing for menthol cigarettes and the devastating impact on the health and lives of Black Americans.

More recently, the ABC joined the public health community in asking the FDA to issue without delay a proposed rule to prohibit menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes.

In June 2020, the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council and Action on Smoking and Health filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging that FDA’s failure to take action on menthol cigarettes constituted “unreasonable delay” in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. Among other claims, the lawsuit asserts the FDA has unreasonably delayed responding to a Citizen Petition, filed in 2013 by various public health organizations, calling on FDA to prohibit menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes.

In filings made in the lawsuit, the government committed to the court that FDA would issue a decision on the Citizen Petition by January 29, 2021. However, on January 21, the parties to the lawsuit filed a Stipulation in court that extended all deadlines in the case by 90 days, with the FDA committing to issue “a final citizen petition response” by April 29, 2021. This means that on or before April 29, FDA will issue a decision either granting or denying the Citizen Petition calling for the prohibition of menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes. If FDA grants the Petition, it will likely indicate its intention to move forward with rulemaking banning menthol cigarettes.
ABC Encourages Lawmakers to Support Introduction of ARC Act
Reps. Donald Payne, Jr., (D-NJ), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), and Bobby Rush (D-IL) are preparing to reintroduce the Amputation Reduction and Compassion (ARC) Act which seeks to reduce the number of avoidable amputations suffered by peripheral artery disease (PAD) patients by requiring Medicare, Medicaid, and group health insurance plans to cover preventive screenings for high-risk individuals so PAD can be caught and treated early, before it leads to amputation. Additionally, this bill would disallow payments for non-traumatic amputations if anatomical testing is not performed first. It also establishes a PAD education program at the Department of Health and Human Services, so physicians are more aware of PAD symptoms, and requires the Department to implement quality payment measures that will reduce avoidable amputations.

In March, ABC sent a letter to every member of the Congressional Black Caucus encouraging original cosponsorship of the legislation.


Highlights from the American Rescue Plan
On March 11, President Joe Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, known as the American Rescue Plan. Bill highlights of possible interest to the ABC membership include:
  • Provides $1 billion in funding for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to strengthen vaccine confidence in the United States.
  • Provides $7.6 billion in funding to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support COVID-19 response at community health centers.
  • Allows states, for five years, to extend Medicaid eligibility to women for 12 months postpartum.
  • Provides an incentive for states that have not already done so to expand Medicaid by temporarily increasing the state’s Federal Medical Assistance Percentage for their base program by 5 percentage points for two years.
  • Provides $8.5 billion to reimburse rural healthcare providers for healthcare-related expenses and lost revenues attributable to COVID–19. The law broadly defines a rural provider as one that:
    • is located outside a metropolitan statistical area (MSA); or
    • is located in a rural census tract of an MSA; or
    • is located in an area designated by the state as rural; or
    • is a sole community hospital or rural referral center; or
    • is located in an area that serves rural patients, such as a small MSA; or
    • is a rural health clinic; or
    • provides home health, hospice, or long-term services and supports in patients' homes that are located in rural areas; or
    • otherwise qualifies as a rural provider, as defined by the HHS Secretary.

  • Subsidizes COBRA coverage at 100 percent through the end of September 2021; and
  • Improves healthcare affordability by increasing the value of the Affordable Care Act Premium Tax Credit.

Black, Hispanic, Native American Individuals 'Left Behind' in Health Care Workforce
In 2019, Black, Hispanic and Native American populations were underrepresented in the current workforce and education pipeline for 10 health professions, according to data in JAMA Network Open.
US Blacks Underrepresented in Cardiovascular Drug Trials
Black residents are underrepresented as participants in clinical trials to support the approval of cardiovascular drugs in the United States, according to a research letter published online March 23 in JAMA Network Open.
Legislators Introduce Bill Addressing Doctor Shortages During Pandemic
U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell (D-AK), John Katko (R-NY), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), and Rodney Davis (R-IL) introduced legislation designed to mitigate the nationwide physician shortages by boosting the number of Medicare-supported residency positions.
New Legislation With Bipartisan Support Would Improve Patient Access to Cardiac, Pulmonary Rehab Programs
New legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that, if signed into law, would improve patient access to critical cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation (CR/PR) programs under Medicare. The Increasing Access to Quality Cardiac Rehabilitation Care Act of 2021 (HR 1956) was introduced by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Democrat out of Delaware, and Rep. Adrian Smith, a Republican out of Nebraska.
FDA Grants Breakthrough Device Designation to AI-Powered ECG Analysis Tool
The platform, developed as part of a collaboration with Geisinger, uses 12-lead ECG data to predict a patient’s future risk of atrial fibrillation (AFib) and atrial flutter. Tempus hopes these insights can help clinicians identify, diagnose and treat heart rhythm issues.
As the FDA Clears a Flood of AI Tools, Missing Data Raise Troubling Questions On Safety and Fairness
Artificial intelligence is the fastest-growing frontier in medicine, but it is also among the most lawless. U.S. regulators have approved more than 160 medical AI products in recent years based on widely divergent amounts of clinical data and without requiring manufacturers to publicly document testing on patients of different genders, races, and geographies, a STAT investigation has found.
CMS Facing Pressure to Add Telehealth to Diabetes Prevention Programs
The Alliance for Connected Care is leading a new lobbying effort to have telehealth included in the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program, both during and after the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Critical Need for Pediatric Electrophysiology Devices is Focus of Medical Device Competition
Congenital heart disease (CHD) affects six out of 1,000 babies born in the U.S. each year and is often complicated by arrhythmias. While the last decade brought great advances in technologies that improve the care of adult arrhythmias, pediatric patients have been left behind, with only five devices approved for use in children in the same period.

April is:
National Minority Health Month

The theme for the 2021 National Minority Health Month (NMHM) #VaccineReady. Social Media tools on the importance of being can be found on the websites for the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) and the Office of Minority Health and shared with your patients and community as we celebrate National Minority Health Month.

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